Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher

By William Taussig Scott; Martin X. Moleski | Go to book overview

2

Coming of Age in the Great
War: 1914–1919

After the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on July 28, 1914, Polanyi volunteered on August 14 for service as a medical officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Two weeks later, he was given permission to practice medicine without having had the requisite year of internship; however, it took a while for Polanyi to get a military assignment. His brother Karl, who was not ready to volunteer himself because of unfinished court cases, spent some time trying to arrange a hospital appointment for Michael in Budapest. Despite Karl's efforts to keep him at home, Polanyi was sent in September to serve as an assistant surgeon in the epidemic hospital at Zombor about 200 kilometers south of Budapest.1 The Austro-Hungarians met defeat in the Serbian campaign of early August and by September 10 had lost the Battle of Lemberg to the Russians, so Polanyi was immediately confronted with many wounded in need of his attention.

Until the outbreak of war, Polanyi had heard of only one person who had received a military scar, from a wound inflicted in the Caucasus. Now he saw many hundreds of men horribly mutilated and watched others die from wounds the doctors could not heal. Contagious diseases were rampant. The lack of sanitary conditions in the Slavic countries led to a succession of epidemics, particularly of cholera, dysentery, typhus, and diphtheria.

In his first month in Zombor, Polanyi was so taken up by the events of the war and his strenuous duties that he lived as if in another world: "My state of mind became so hardened that I did not recognize myself anymore."2 In October, Polanyi was scheduled to

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Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xv
  • A Note on Names xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Part I - Hungary: 1891–1919 1
  • 1: Early Years: 1891–1914 3
  • 2: Coming of Age in the Great War: 1914–1919 33
  • Part II - Germany: 1919–1933 53
  • 3: Karlsruhe: 1919–1920 55
  • 4: The Fiber Institute: 1920–1923 67
  • 5: Institute for Physical Chemistry: 1923–1933 93
  • Part III - Manchester: 1933–1959 131
  • 6: Physical Chemistry and Economics: 1933–1937 133
  • 7: The Philosophy of Freedom: 1938–1947 171
  • 8: Personal Knowledge: 1948–1959 211
  • Part IV - Scholar at Large: 1959–1976 237
  • 9: Merton College, Oxford: 1959–1961 239
  • 10: At the Wheel of the World: 1961–1971 247
  • 11: The Last Years: 1971–1976 279
  • Epilogue 293
  • Appendix: People Interviewed by William T. Scott 295
  • Notes 297
  • Bibliography of Works by Michael Polanyi 327
  • Index 351
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